Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Adorable Kitty Videos!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chapter Three from James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"


If Stephen Dedalus finds sexual ecstasy a blessed relief in Chapter Two of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by Chapter Three his fleshly desires have devolved into hedonism and lechery. Throughout the chapter, Stephen compares himself to a vulgar beast, and he grapples with guilt and shame.

For example, in the opening paragraphs, Stephen "feels his belly crave for food," and hears it counsel him to "stuff it in you." Stephen's focus on the primitive, gluttonous desires of his body demonstrate that he is neglecting his spiritual and intellectual sides. Sex, which seemed a dark and beautiful mystery at the end of the previous chapter, has also lost its luster. The young woman in a pink dress from Chapter Two, her profession left unmentioned, has given way to scenes of "whores...yawning lazily after their sleep and settling hairpins in their cluster of hair." Gone is the romance and excitement of Stephen's first experience--instead, Joyce depicts the women Stephen visits as pedestrian whores. While Stephen previously reveled in a fragment from Shelley's poem, now he imagines that his soul is "quenching its own lights and fires" and instead equating himself to a pale moon, he feels like "cold darkness filled chaos." Stephen's indifference reflects the lack of balance in his life; like many adolescents, he continually goes to extremes. In this case, his extreme focus on his bodily pleasures leaves him spiritually empty.

But Stephen does not remain in this state for long. He is initially repelled by "sickly smell of cheap hairoil" he notes in churchgoers, showing a contempt for people based on superficial physical characteristics, but his school requires its students to attend a religious retreat in honor of their patron saint, Francis Xavier.  This retreat gradually awakens Stephen's spiritual side, driving him though stages of guilt and fear until he finally makes his confession and discovers spiritual ecstasy.

The retreat opens with the return of Father Arnall, one of Stephen's masters from his childhood at Clongowes. Seeing his old teacher reminds Stephen of his lost innocence and childhood, and his soul "[becomes] again a child's soul." This begins the awakening of Stephen's soul--the return to childhood represents the first stage of his spiritual development. During Father Arnall's first speech he tells the boys that the purpose of the retreat is to help them focus on their souls without the distraction of studies or worldly influences. In particular, the priest intends to focus on the "four last things," which are "death, judgement, hell, and heaven." The priest's words have a profound effect on Stephen. His disgust with himself increases, and he imagines that "his soul was fattening and congealing into a gross grease," yet he also a dull fear. His focus on his body leaves his spiritual side deeply unsatisfied, and thus vulnerable to the fearful manipulations of religion.

Father Arnall's lecture the next day focuses on death and judgement, and in his guilt and terror Stephen empathizes so deeply with the dying and condemned that he "felt the deathchill touch the extremities and creep onward to the heart." Stephen convinces himself that "every word of [Father Arnall's lecture] is for him" and that the "whole wrath of God" aimed at his sins. If before he felt disgusted with himself, now he feels ashamed. Yet, though he agonizes about his sins, Stephen still feels helpless to seek forgiveness or ameliorate his guilt in any way. This helplessness echoes the impotence he felt while watching the adults argue as a child in Chapter One, or the frustration he felt in Chapter Two when he can't find Emma after his play.
The priest's next lecture lasts for six page, and focuses on the fall of Lucifer and the tortures of hell. It is stuffed with the most vile tortures that ever a twisted old man thought up to terrify young people into religion. The hell he describes is so merciless, so abjectly frightening, that it's hard to imagine what kind of demon God would create such a place. Father Arnall describes the damned as "so utterly bound and helpless that...they are not even able to remove from the eye a worm that gnaws it." God designed this "straitness" to punish those "who refused to be bound by his laws." The damned lie in complete darkness, and the stench of hell is "like some foul and putrid corpse that has lain rotting and decomposing in the grave, a jelly-like mass of liquid corruption." But all those other physical tortures pale beside the unending fire that "rages with incredible intensity [and] it rages forever." Hell, according to the priest, also contains the miserable company of the damned and the demons, who scream and howl at each other.

Stephen is so deeply affected by this nightmarish speech that he fears he has already died, and that at any moment God would cast him into the pit. He thinks "his brain [is] simmering and bubbling within the cracking tenement of the skull." It's only the mundane voices of his classmates that bring Stephen back to reality, and remind him that he's still very much alive. Grateful for his reprieve, Stephen vows to repent of his evil deeds. Yet, given a chance to make his confession, he does not go, to ashamed to reveal his sexual sins to the priests at his school. But the old priest has still another lecture (eight pages) with which to rouse Stephen from his reluctance to confess. This one discusses the spiritual pains of hell, namely being deprived of the divine light, the pain of conscience, the pains of extension and intensity, and worst of all, the eternity of hell. These spiritual pains somewhat contradict the previous lecture, where the priest said that the damned have no humanity or conscience in hell, but only rage against their fate and the people who lead them astray. Despite Father Arnall's insistence that God is just, and that sin is so vile he must punish it this way, it's clear that the endless tortures he imagines the damned suffer seem deeply disproportional to their actual sins.  Stephen feels intensely guilty and frightened as he listens to this lecture, believing every word is for him. Yet his actual sin, sleeping with prostitutes, is a fairly mild one, and likely a very common one for men of that time period.

At last, Stephen returns home, and still feeling the pain of conscience, imagines the hell God has in store for him. He dreams of a field of rank weeds and nasty smells coming from "stale crusted dung." He imagines himself in a "stinking, bestial, malignant...hell of lecherous goatish fiends." Stephen is so distraught over his dream that he leaps from bed and rushes to an anonymous chapel to confess. After his intense guilt and fear, the relief of confession leaves Stephen in a state of bliss. He feels pure and holy, and just as he had experienced sexual/bodily ecstasy at the end of Chapter Two, now he experiences religious/spiritual ecstasy. But the intensity of his religious fervor leaves him unbalanced again--caring only for his soul, and neglecting his intellect and his body.

Blogs for James Joyce's Dubliners:

"The Sisters" and "An Encounter"


"After the Race" and "Two Gallants"

"A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts"


"Clay" and "A Painful Case"

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"

"A Mother"

"Grace"

"The Dead"

Blogs for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Chapter One

Chapter Two



Blogs for James Joyce's Ulysses: 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

There is a War on Christmas

There is a War on Christmas


There is a War on Christmas
That Conservatives always fight
To rob the poor of assistance
By Christmas Night

Though Jesus may have loved the poor
The humble and the meek
His followers now prefer to call them
Lazy, stupid, and weak

No home is sacred
No low-income family safe
From vicious, mean-spirited policies
To turn them all to waifs

For millionaires need tax cuts
Republicans like to think
And if you're not a millionaire
They'll throw you down the sink

The elderly, poor, and middle class
They secretly despise
Though they try to win their votes
With cruel and ugly lies

Generosity is for suckers
Democrats and the like
And Santa Claus is just a lie
To placate little tykes

They say they value families
But only certain forms
They'll gladly destroy the lives
Of those who don't conform

So if you value freedom
Imagine those who are gay
Can't marry the one they love
On a beautiful wedding day

Republicans would deny their rights
Cause their families to shatter
Because if your family has two mommies
They think that you don't matter

All families have great beauty
When they're built on love
So don't destroy their happiness
In the name of God above

It's also single women
They're fighting in their war
They'll take away their birth control
And equal rights, no more

They're wrong on immigration
But Republicans believe
If Latinos don't like them
The GOP can make them leave

They think you're not American
If your skin's not lily-white
And if you don't believe as they do
They'll take away your rights

They'll take away our healthcare
So the uninsured will succumb
So many will be bankrupt
When the medical bills come home

The fiscal cliff will be their excuse
To raise the Medicare age
Costing seniors thousands of dollars
To placate Republican rage

So please stop this War on Christmas
Because what makes our country great
Is our freedom and our safety net
Not your politics of hate







Monday, December 10, 2012

Reading Chapter Two of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

In Chapter Two of Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus enters his brooding, awkward adolescence. The chapter opens with Stephen spending time with his Uncle Charles. No longer the passionate political firebrand introduced in the first chapter, Uncle Charles now indulges Stephen with treats and prays regularly in the chapel. While Uncle Charles becomes a more peaceful character, the dissipation of his political passions and ideals suggest that he, like Ireland herself, has fallen into a rut.

In his free time, Stephen devotes himself to reading The Count of Monte Cristo. He becomes especially fascinated by the character of Mercedes, who represents his pure, romantic longings. Yet even in his imagination Stephen sees himself refusing her, quoting, "Madam, I never eat muscatel grapes." Though Stephen indulges in romantic fantasies, physical reality often disgusts him. Joyce emphasizes this dichotomy by contrasting summer with autumn/winter, and Dublin with the countryside. For example, "the cattle which had seemed so beautiful in the country on sunny days revolted him" when he saw them in the filthy stockyard during autumn.   

As the chapter progresses, Stephen becomes more and more ensnared by the rough world he despises. His father's money troubles at first keep him from returning to school, then force the family to leave their country haven for the harsher world of Dublin. His Uncle Charles grows too "witless" to go on errands, reflecting the disarray and stupidity that have infected Irish politics. However, his uncle's decline leaves Stephen free, and he wanders the city. But Dublin fails to live up to Stephen's imaginary Marseilles--instead of bright skies and "sunwarmed trellises," the real world has "lowering skies." Even when the shops are decorated for Christmas, Stephen only feels embittered and angry with his circumstances. He remains gloomy even at a children's party he attends, withdrawing into a snug corner of the room to "taste the joy of his loneliness."

At this same party, however, Stephen meets an unnamed girl who infatuates him. When they ride home on a tram together, he thinks about taking her in his arms and kissing her. Once again, his fantasy proves more appealing than reality because he abstains, though whether it is fear or guilt or nerves that hold him him back he doesn't say. Still, his frustration grows and instead of seeking out the girl herself, he writes a poem about the experience of being with her, perhaps his first artistic creation. 

Soon Stephen's reveries come to an end. His father announces that Stephen and his brother will go back to school at Belvedere, another Jesuit school similar to Clongowes. In explaining how he managed to get them places at the prestigious school, Mr. Dedalus tells the family how the rector remembered Stephen because he had reported to him how the prefect, Father Dolan, punished him unfairly. The rector and Father Dolan had a good laugh at Stephen's expense, but appreciated his "manly" spirit. Though Stephen never says a word, or gives the reader any hint of his emotions, it's hard to think that his triumph from Chapter One was nothing but a joke to the priests around him. At the time Stephen took it very seriously indeed, and the callous laughter of the Jesuits must only increase Stephen's bitterness and alienation.

Belvedere College, Dublin

The next scene in the book shows the backstage preparations for a play at Belvedere. Stephen has been there a couple of years, and will perform the part of a "farcical pedagogue," perhaps an ironic commentary on Stephen's excessive obedience and uptight, pedantic manners.  He is excited to learn that the beautiful girl he met at the children's party will attend the play, perhaps specifically to see him. His friends, including his rival, Heron, tease him about the girl, but Stephen brushes them off.  He remembers how Heron had taunted him years before for liking Lord Byron's poetry. After the play, Stephen finds his family waiting for him, but the elusive girl is gone. Frustrated, Stephen runs a ways down a hill, until the pungent order of "horse piss and matted straw" robs him of his fantasies and calms his raging heart. Once again, the real world abruptly brings Stephen out of his romantic fantasies.

Stephen's frustration only grows during a trip to Cork with his father. Bored by his father's reminisces, annoyed by his father's competition with him, Stephen watches humiliated as his father drinks too much. His mind wanders to a poem by Shelley, and he takes comfort in its artistic power. Yet if Stephen blames his father's improvidence for his troubles, the next scene proves him wrong. Stephen collects some money for writing an award-winning essay and exhibition. At first thrilled with his new wealth, he quickly spends all his money on a useless attempt to "build a breakwater of order and elegance against the sordid tide of life" and "dam up...the powerful recurrence of tides within him." His money was a brief distraction, and now Stephen is as isolated and frustrated as before.

Wandering the streets, Stephen finds himself drawn to the red-light district. A woman in a long pink gown takes him to her room, where a "huge doll sat with her legs apart in the copious easy chair beside the bed."(Subtle, James Joyce). Stephen kisses her, then he "[surrenders] himself to her, body and mind, conscious of nothing in the world but the dark pressure of her softly parting lips." (Even more subtlety, of course). Finally, Stephen finds some release for his pent-up frustration.

Blogs for James Joyce's Dubliners:

"The Sisters" and "An Encounter"


"After the Race" and "Two Gallants"

"A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts"


"Clay" and "A Painful Case"

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"

"A Mother"

"Grace"

"The Dead"

Blogs for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Chapter One

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Blogs for James Joyce's Ulysses: 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Kitty


My kitty certainly loves sleeping under our Christmas Tree!


He loves hiding under our tree skirt, too!




No one can see me!



Ruffling the tree skirt is one of the joys of Christmas.


Other Cat Pictures Posts:

Cat Like Box

Bringing Home Our Kitties

Adorable Kitty Videos

Moby Kitty

Christmas Kitty

Cat Burrito!

Lynx Snuggling my Socks

The Lord of Shoes

Our Sweet Kitties